Happy pollinator week to everyone. Fourteen years ago, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved and designated a week in June to be celebrated as “National Pollinator Week” each year.
This was a huge step toward helping the declining pollinator populations. Still, pollinators, including monarchs, are in trouble. According to the 2021 pollinator count, the western monarch butterfly population has dropped by 99%.
One way to help the monarchs is to supply their larvae with a food source, which is milkweed. Milkweed is the only thing that the young monarch caterpillars eat, but adult monarchs are not picky at all about their diet and live on nectar from all sorts of plants. Milkweed is part of a very important group of wildflowers that produce an important nectar source for pollinating insects and some animals. Many types of plants provide nectar for adult pollinators. Milkweed is especially important to the monarch butterflies because it contains cardenolides, which are toxic to many other insects and animals. Cardenolides protect adult monarchs and their caterpillars against predators.
Unfortunately, milkweed plants are disappearing. The decline of this plant is one of the major causes for the decline in the monarch butterfly populations. Many other causes of the monarch butterfly decline are also known and most are related to human activity, including habitat loss and the increasing use of synthetic pesticides and herbicides.
We humans can turn this loss around and help to save the monarch butterflies from extinction. Growing milkweed plants in any areas were you can will be a start to helping these beautiful beneficial creatures to thrive once again.
Until next time, let’s all try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers and milkweeds.